Eye- and Health Care Project
In 2011, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that there are over 285 million people suffering from visual impairment, and every 5 seconds a person goes blind. Critically, 80% of these visual impairments are avoidable and 90% of those who are visually impaired live in developing countries. Poverty, a lack of medical facilities, and a lack of education about healthcare mean that people living in developing countries are less likely to get, or have access to, treatment. People with visual impairment face severe challenges regarding their personal safety as well as chronic poverty.
Uganda has a scarcity of trained eye care professionals available to provide accessible care and this directly contributes to disadvantaged lives, and in turn affecting a loss of potential to the overall economy. This is particularly evident in optometry services which impact on an adult’s capacity to earn and a child’s capacity to learn. Optometry has the capacity to change the eye care landscape of Uganda. This profession is very young in Uganda, emerging over the last three years since the opening of the optometry program at Makerere University in 2013, funded by DFAT and Optometry Giving Sight. There are currently optometry students enrolled in year one and two of the optometry program at Makerere University. The first graduates graduated in 2018. Unfortunately, for many children in Uganda it is not as simple as heading to the optometrist and getting a prescription for glasses. A simple screening and treatment can cost more than 100 US dollars, which is unaffordable for many in one of the poorest nations in the world.
Within our eye care and health program we have several activities that relate to the health of the families and the community that we work with. We pay the medical bills for children whose situation is life threatening, and whose parents are not able to pay for it. Most of the time illnesses relate to malaria.
Under this program, we also set up the Eye Health Program. Several times a year, we take children and their families to the local hospitals and opticians to get their eyesight checked and get medication, or glasses where needed. Our main sponsor for our Eye Program comes from Walzer Opticians in Isny, Germany, and his non-profit organization 'Wir Helfen Sehen' (We Help to See). Early eye examinations are crucial to make sure children have normal, healthy vision so they can participate better at school and in play. Early identification of a child’s vision problem is crucial, because children are often more responsive to treatment when problems are diagnosed early. Many people here are short or long sighted and it is absolutely essential for the education of our children that at school they are able to see the board and their notebook clearly! Together with our 22STARS team and local opticians, Walzer tested the eyesight of all the kids in Daystar and St. Matia, two schools where many our children are pupils. Afterwards, 70 people were sent to a Ugandan eye doctor where they received further treatment, 50 reading glasses were handed out to the elderly, and 20 pairs of safety glasses were given to the people working in the quarry.
This shows the importance of the 22STARS’ “Eye Program”. In a country where the average monthly income is $40, a pair of glasses of more than $100 is simply unaffordable. Not only are they expensive, but many parts of Uganda still face a lack of education regarding eye healthcare, and the professional manpower to treat all those who need it, which in turn affects educational and economic opportunities. Our long-term plan is to look for collaborations with Ugandan organisations who could provide accessible eye care and affordable glasses. Our plan is to raise additional funds to check the eyes of more children and families living in the community where 22STARS operates and to give people an opportunity to get treatment where necessary and to get glasses. We want to perform eye exams with a professional optometrist and provide prescription glasses for patients who do not have access to proper medical services and eye surgery. We also want to promote blindness prevention and eye health education programs in the local communities.